Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Moose neighbours and the menace of Roald Dahl: an interview with Will Dean

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the seventh instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 179th overall edition of our long-running author interview series!

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had a lot of fun talking to some amazing crime writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you. You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. What a line-up. Thanks everyone.

If you've got a favourite crime writer who hasn't yet been part of the 9mm series, please do let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you. We've got a few more interviews with cool writers 'already in the can' that will be published soon, so lots to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome the author of one of my favourite 2018 reads to Crime Watch, Will Dean. A native of the East Midlands in the UK, Will grew up in a variety of English villages, before studying law and working in London for several years. But he must have missed the countryside, because he started building a wooden house in a "boggy forest clearing" in rural Sweden, eventually moving there with his wife in 2012. Their mailbox is a mile away from the house, they have no municipal water, and the closest neighbours are the moose that roam the forest.

Will has called it a great place to compulsively read and write, and in January this year his debut, DARK PINES, was released to great acclaim. It's a terrific book, introducing deaf reporter Tuva Moodyson, who works for a smalltown newspaper in rural Sweden while dreaming of bigger things. In DARK PINES, Tuva investigates after a body is found shot in the woods, its face mutilated in a manner that echoes the horrific 'Medusa' crimes of many years before. It's an atmospheric, chilling tale (not just because of the weather), and Tuva is a truly fascinating character. I'm very glad to see that Will is bringing her back in RED SNOW, out next winter.

But in the meantime, Will Dean becomes the latest crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
Sherlock Holmes, Lisbeth Salander, Jack Reacher, Karen Pirie. My favourite authors write unnerving, unsettling stories. I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, Muriel Spark, Shirley Jackson, Patricia Highsmith, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Sarah Waters.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
FANTASTIC MR FOX by Roald Dahl. I remember it vividly because I re-read it so many times (along with Dahl’s other stories). I love how dark his books are, and how they don’t speak down to children. They have danger and menace and dark humour. And with FANTASTIC MR FOX, I love the contained setting. There’s a wonderful (three-dimensional) sense of place. As a teenager my favourite books were TRAINSPOTTING, FRANKENSTEIN, and ALL of Stephen King’s novels.

3. Before your debut crime novel. What else had you written, unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote a godawful first novel which is now locked securely in a drawer. Rewriting that bad book over and over again, battling with it for years on my own, was a free-of-charge creative writing course.

4. Outside of writing, touring, and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity wise?
I like to get out into the Swedish nature. Mostly the forest (trekking, building bonfires, chopping wood, ditch clearing, foraging) but also sea kayaking. We take our son - my wife and I paddle and he sits in the middle eating meatball sandwiches.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn’t in the tourist brochures, or perhaps wouldn’t initially consider?
There’s no town. There’s not really even a village. I’d say visit in the autumn and go mushroom picking with a local. Make sure you wear a bright hat so nobody mistakes you for a moose. Discovering a secret patch of chanterelles (and then cooking and eating them) is a real pleasure.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
Either Hugh Jackman or Brian Blessed.

7. Of your writings, which is your favourite and why?
DARK PINES will always be special as it was my debut, but book two of the Tuva Moodyson series (RED SNOW) is my current favourite. It’s set in February, the coldest, snowiest time of the year. The body of a local man is discovered inside Gavrik’s salt liquorice factory. And then the hunt for the killer, the so-called Ferryman, begins.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
When I heard Oneworld were buying DARK PINES and RED SNOW I was elated (my agent had discovered me in her towering slushpile just a month or so before). All the years of work and rejection and rewriting and self-doubt were worth it.  My wife and I celebrated with beers out in the forest. The next day I went back to work on book two.

The first time I saw my book in a bookshop was the week prior to my launch. I visited dozens of bookshops that week to meet booksellers and sign copies, but before all that started I stepped inside Waterstones Trafalgar Square. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t sign anything. I just took a moment, standing, looking, taking it all in.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had as a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I love meeting and chatting with readers and so far they’ve all been lovely! The most unusual experience was probably meeting my heroes at Harrogate last year (before I was published). I chatted at the bar with Lee Child and Fiona Cummins and Mark Billingham and Abir Mukherjee. I listened to Val McDermid and Jane Harper and Kristen Lepionka. I’ll never forget that first Harrogate.

Thank you Will, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch. 

You can read more about Will Dean and the building of his cabin in the woods in this fascinating feature in The Times, and you can keep up to date with his writing by following him on Twitter

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